Nir’s Note: Noah Kagan is the Chief Sumo at AppSumo and runs a YouTube Channel with over 1 million subscribers. His new book, Million Dollar Weekend, is out now.
Airbnb began as a weekend project when the founders sent an email offering their living-room air mattress to hotelless attendees of a major design conference. Facebook started when Mark Zuckerberg built a clone of ConnectU over the weekend and told everyone in his dorm about it. Even Microsoft began with Bill Gates making software quickly for a company in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Most of us think we are never ready for what we want: being in a relationship, living in another country, or starting a business. But the best way to make it happen is to start immediately.
And the most straightforward, powerful, life-changing motto that will help you take action today is:
The beauty of “Now, not how” is it does not discriminate. It applies to you regardless of your intelligence, education, wealth, or whatever disadvantages may hold you back. The motto will help you overcome any self-limiting beliefs that you harbor. Confidence and results will come, but to get to where you want to go, you must start where you are today.
“Now, not how” led me to create AppSumo.com, an $80 million-a-year business I started in 48 hours.
I first learned to take action now, instead of worrying about how, when I was 21.
As a college student at UC Berkeley, I noticed first-year students wanted internships, and local businesses struggled to market to college students. I created a consulting company to bridge the gap.
We grew to a small army of 20 people. Then, one day, my intern Kenny suggested we launch a student discount card.
My first thought was, “Really?”
Business-minded college kids often try—and fail—at discount cards.
Conventional wisdom said don’t bother trying. But growing up with my salesman dad taught me to test ideas myself.
It wouldn’t take more than an hour to see whether local businesses would be interested. To Kenny, I said, “Come on, let’s go to town and ask a few shopkeepers if they’d be willing to offer discounts.”
Kenny paused. “You mean, like, right now?”
I could see him start to sweat; his instinct was to race to the library, research market trends, and do customer analysis.
“Yes, now!” I responded.
We went business to business with a quick pitch: “This is going to get your name in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of students.”
Turns out, local businesses are always happy to get more customers. We had about 20 companies signed up pretty soon—enough, we hoped, to entice students to pay $10 for the cards.
It was a hit.
We expanded to multiple campuses and generated $50,000 within a year. Not bad for some college kids, right?
That experience made me realize the power of taking action right away. Over the next 20 years, I would become an expert at starting—which has led me to have a YouTube business with 1 million subscribers, launch seven businesses that have generated over $1 million each, and found AppSumo.
Starting immediately allows you to find out instantly if your idea will work. Wasting time wondering if something will work is one of the pitfalls holding people back from success in business and every aspect of life.
Think of yourself as a scientist and everything you do as an experiment. Most experiments fail. But every experiment has the chance of potentially unforeseen discoveries.
You never know what works until you try, and you’ll never try if you’re afraid to start.
That fear will never go away, no matter what you achieve. Even with two decades of experience, I still feel starting is scary, and rejection still sucks.
Fear is why when most people decide to start a business, for example, they fall victim to the distraction of overthinking: Their first instinct is to learn more—read a book, take a course, seek advice—and then take action.
That has to be much safer and makes you less likely to fail, right? Wrong.
Overthinking is far less effective. Super-successful people do the opposite: They take action first, get honest feedback, and learn from it, which is a million times more valuable—and quicker!—than any book, course, or advice.
Of course, many people don’t recognize starting as their primary obstacle. When people talk to me about what gets in the way of their dreams of running a business—the job they hate, the lack of time—the real problem is always the same: They haven’t started.
When I want to achieve something, and there’s a version I can do in minutes, I do it.
Here’s an example.
An ad agency was pitching our AppSumo team on a new Facebook advertising campaign. It ended the meeting with the dreaded promise of an email recap of everything we’d have to do to get started (create passwords, add the agency to our Facebook account, line up new content, and so on). “No, no, let’s do all of that now,” I said, which took five minutes and saved 24 hours of waiting.
Your inner negotiator may say, “That sounds great, but my idea needs more time.”
No more negotiating with yourself. You’re just a doer. And every time you take action, you teach yourself that you’re a relentless experimenter.
Let’s say you get excited to build an e-commerce site for the organic, gluten-free dog treats your friends have been raving about.
Most people would:
- Buy a Shopify service
- Get a domain
- Watch three videos from e-commerce “gurus” on YouTube
- Grab a book and take a course to be more prepared
But these are just distractions that trick you into thinking you’re taking real action.
Real action helps you solve your problem: finding out if people want your idea. In this case, it’s figuring out if potential customers want dog treats.
The new you embracing the now, would:
- Contact a dog-owning friend right now to get feedback on the treats—and a potential order.
You didn’t worry about the how. You took advantage of the now and found out you may have a real business on your hands.
You can even apply “Now, not how,” to everyday tasks: Socks on the ground? Pick them up right now. Dishes piling up in the sink? Pack them into the dishwasher, or get that sponge ready now.
Practicing the motto on low-level tasks will empower you to keep going and not worry about the “how” as much, especially when it comes to your bigger goals.
Using “Now, not how” has changed my life. It can change yours too.
Next time you start spiraling, wondering how you will tackle that next big challenge, think about the next action (any action) you can take right now—the “how” will follow.
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